blog

An eclectic mix of writing, covering climbing equipment, technique, life & death (and all the stuff inbetween).


EA312 image Dark-Half  | Apr 11, 21

EA312

Someone once told me never to underestimate your audience, which although an uphill task at times (someone also said my problem was I was cleverer than people think, which means I have to ‘dumb up’), has paid dividends so far.Today my kids asked what the trick was in making a living from your ‘art’ (they think I swan around doing fuck all), and after thinking it over I thought that it was about trying - yes trying - to exceed expectations, both of your audiences and your own (if people only think you’re just a dumb chav rock...

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Queen image Dark-Half  | Apr 10, 21

Queen

This could be an image of a woman in a bikini, an easy like, instead it’s a woman with a 60lb pack, but a hook no less. Words like ‘equality’ and ‘diversity’ mean little with a pack on your back, words I don’t much like - let people find their own way, don’t try and force or own it, or make everything a revolutionary act.I’ve a punk sensibility - it used to be cool to rebel and not conform - ‘God save the Queen’ and all that - to fight the status quo - an...

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Oh Shit Award #4 image Climbing  | Apr 10, 21

Oh Shit Award #4

Although I literally wrote the book on the subject, the dark art of rope soloing scares the shit out of me.A while back I joined the rope soloing Facebook group, but after a few months, I had to leave, because although there were some solid people on there, it also attracted a lot of crazy dangerous people (a danger to themselves, and a danger to anyone who might listen to them).The reason for writing Me, Myself & I, was to attempt to share what I’d learnt over five solo ascents of El Cap, as well as on...

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Q&A: 7.5 mm rope question image Q&A  | Apr 09, 21

Q&A: 7.5 mm rope question

Hi GabrielThis is a great question, as it leads down several interesting paths, and one worth giving some thought to.First off, you’re right; if a single strand of 7.5 mm rope is safe for the leader to fall on, then it’s also fine for a second to fall on, although – if the belayer is doing their job – no follower is going to be falling, only hanging.If the second was to actually have a significant fall while climbing, it would be a serious error on the part of both the belayer (because they forgot that’s what...

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THE ABSEIL KNOT Part 2 image Technique   | Apr 08, 21

THE ABSEIL KNOT Part 2

Here’s part two of the abseil knot section of my book Down. It would be great if people could share this as widely as possible.Inline Knots The following knots are all high strength and although less effective in rappel than the OOB, are worth learning and understanding.Single Fisherman’s (Fig 159) A very simple and compact knot, that although looking weak, is actually very strong. Nevertheless, such a simple knot does not inspire confidence and can become welded together, so the Double Fisherman’s is generally used instead.Figure 159: Single Fisherman’s knotDouble Fisherman’s (Fig 160) A...

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Self Lining Question image Q&A  | Apr 07, 21

Self Lining Question

Disclaimer. Unfortunately, we’re living in an age in which any advice I give is going to result in me being told off by manufactures and those more qualified and badged to tell you what to do, as well as slandered on forums for attempted murder - so - this is not safety advice (visit Petzl’s site for the safety method), but simply how I approach the subject. It’s also worth knowing there is no perfect or set or safe way to do this, and even ‘the Petzl way’ can see your sorry ass being put into the...

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God to Mortal image Climbing  | Apr 06, 21

God to Mortal

I’ve been following kayaker Erik Boomer since he carried out a human-powered circumnavigation of Ellesmere with legendary adventurer Jon Turk in 2011 (see story here on Nat Geo). Anyone who’s read Jon’s book ‘Cold Oceans’ knows that signing up for any trip with Jon is like signing up for a trip with Ernest Shackleton, that trip living its epic expectations (Jon had also kayaked from Japan to Alaska!). Since then Erik kept cropping up on my radar, with his film ‘Into Twin Galaxies’: the crossing of Greenland via skis, kites and kayaks, winning many awards in 2016. It seemed...

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Rappel Knots #1 image Climbing  | Apr 05, 21

Rappel Knots #1

The following is taken from my book Down, as well as the stripped-down Down-Core version. The aim of the Core version was simply to get the information out there on the basics of safe rappelling (the Kindle version was as cheap as I could set it, which is around $2), but I thought I would also begin sharing sections from the book here on substack. It would be great if people could share this as widely as possible.This may be the most contentious part of this book, which is funny, as really it should be one of...

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Oh Shit Award #2 image Climbing  | Apr 03, 21

Oh Shit Award #2

Here is a second instalment of the Oh Shit! Award, a simple story that’s instructive in many ways if you read between the lines. I remember making the same kind of mistake on El Cap once, when rappeling down an overhanging pitch, I let go of the rap ropes and they swung out into space, out of reach. Luckily for me, I had time on my side and knew the wind would arrive soon, and it did, blowing the ropes back into reach (how lucky was that), saving me from the ignominy of shouting for rescue.Hello Andy,My...

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The problem with skinny singles image Climbing  | Mar 31, 21

The problem with skinny singles

The issues arising from the widespread use of the thinnest single ropes.

If I was to be asked to name one aspect of modern climbing technique that I feel uncomfortable about, it would probably be this: how non-elite climbers – which is pretty much all of us – have begun to adopt the ultra-skinny single rope as the standard, meaning we’re increasingly moving away from double rope techniques. I think for the majority of climbers, new, old, and yet to be born, this is a mistake.This change, which came about due to a number of influences, including sport climbing, gyms, and the Americanisation of international climbing, and has now spread to all...

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